If you had lived back in 1833, what you saw just before dawn on November 13th would probably have scared you to death. You might have thought the world was coming to an end, or you might have thought that it was the Second Coming. But whatever you might have thought, you would have seen the skies lit up by thousands of shooting stars every minute in one of the greatest meteor showers of recorded history. It was enough to make educated men gasp, and most of the common men, not privy to the study of heavenly bodies, at the least found their knees knocking together and at the most fell to their knees in prayer.
Samuel Rogers, a traveling preacher, wrote in his autobiography, “It did appear as if every star had left its moorings, and was drifting rapidly in a westerly direction, leaving behind a track of light which remained visible for several seconds. Some of those wandering stars seemed as large as the full moon, or nearly so, and in some cases they appeared to dash at a rapid rate across the general course of the main body of meteors, leaving in their track a bluish light, which gathered into a thin cloud not unlike a puff of smoke from a tobacco-pipe.”
Denison Olmstead wrote on 25 Jan 1834, “The reader may imagine a constant succession of fire balls, resembling sky rockets, radiating in all directions from a point in the heavens. . . . The balls, as they travelled down the vault, usually left after them a vivid streak of light. . . .The flashes of light, although less intense than lightning, were so bright as to awaken people in their beds.”
The famous Frederick Douglas wrote in his 1855 autobiography, “I witnessed this gorgeous spectacle, and was awe-struck. The air seemed filled with bright descending messengers from the sky. It was about daybreak when I saw this sublime scene. I was not without the suggestion, at the moment, that it might be the harbinger of the coming of the Son of man; and in my then state of mind I was prepared to hail Him as my friend and deliverer. I had read that the ‘stars shall fall from heaven,’ and they were now falling.”
In Greene County Missouri the sight is recorded in their history book and includes a funny anecdote. “A man and his wife were sleeping the sleep of the just, the lady by a window. Awakening, she saw the wonderful celestial pyrotechnical display, and arousing her husband in great terror, she exclaimed. "Get up, old man, quick! The day of judgment has come?" He…hesitated but a moment, and turning over grumblingly replied: "O, lie down and go to sleep, you old fool; do you suppose the judgment day is going to come in the night?"
Take another look at the picture above. How would YOU have reacted if you had been awakened one morning by thousands of strong lights flashing brightly and soundlessly in the sky outside your house. Might you have lit a candle and gone outside to see what was going on. I would have probably taken my usual way of handling fearful things -- dived under the bedcovers! What would you have done?